The beginning of the adventure
In 2000 we had just decided to leave France for South East Asia.
We have been passing for years (personally since 1981) three months a year in Thailand, always about two months in Ko Phangan, a small island in the southern Gulf of Siam.
The project is taking shape, figuratively and literally, to build a wooden boat and sail with the islands of the corner with far distant dreams of navigations much longer and why not the tour of the oceans.
The first boat plans are sketched and on the beach of Ko Ma where we lived at the time, in front of Mae Haad which was still only a fishermen’s hamlet with some summary bungalows, the model of the ship took all my attention.
From the model to the construction site
After drawing a lot, it was about making plans and heading to another corner of South East Asia: Indonesia.
The chance we have met friends of friends who had dropped anchor off our favorite beach a couple of years ago had started the process.
I had already gone to see with them the chosen site, a family of Bugis carpenters on a tiny island Pulau Bonerate in the province of Makassar in South Sulawesi.
Several round trips, by period of two months because of visas, to first discuss the plans and sign the manufacturing contract “Surat Fabrik” and then choose the trees and have them cut down and cut into boards using long chainsaws before putting all that to dry before starting construction.
Indonesian naval carpenters – 6 centuries of tradition
In six months a team of five carpenters has almost finished mounting the hull of Itsaramai.
It was done on a beach a few meters from the waves, without electricity, with only traditional hand tools. Saws of several models, wood chisels, ermine (the famous “binku” of Indonesian carpenters), augers to make holes, and big wooden mallets and a lot of elbow grease to assemble all that!
I had proposed the plans I wanted, but I let them the liberty to build the typical model of their island, a fifteen-meter Lumbo.
The day I arrived to see the finished hull I had a little surprise …
I did not see my boat on the beach … And for good reason, I was looking for it much smaller, about fifteen meters then.
I was standing on the beach alone, with beside me or rather above me, a vessel of almost twenty meters.
And yes the Indonesians start from a keel of the requested length, that’s where they measure, the rest is done to the eye in proportion.
Building beautiful crafts in joy and good mood …